25 September 2017

Cycling on flat-lands

After a break of four years when I only did a bit of utilitarian cycling, this year I started to do a bit more cycling again. Not mountain-biking as before. Since I started to do trail running more seriously,  I feel that running is much better suited for the type of mountain trails we have around Brasov. This time I have returned to road cycling after many years... On roads I am exploring other landscapes around Brasov, not than just mountains. There are many secondary roads with good surface around Brasov, just perfect for road cycling.

The highlight of the cycling season was a cycling tour in the Netherlands. It was a last minute decision. Myself and my wife had some holiday days left for the end of the summer. As she is still recovering from an ankle injury, hiking was out of the question, but cycling was OK. 
Knowing how good the cycling infrastructure is in Holland, I proposed that we could go there for cycling in a safer road environment than in Romania.

My wife quickly searched the web for a fully organised tour. As we have never been cycling in Holland before, this was the safest option to ensure a last minute successful holiday. Most organised cycling tours seem to target the older generation; have short daily distances and e-bike option. Anyway, my wife managed to find a tour operator that had road bike tours on the menu: Holland Bike Tours. As both of us are quite well trained for endurance, we went straight for the most demanding tour they have on offer: Lake Ijssel Round Rrip; 400km in four days.

The tour was very well organised. It was an individual tour. The tour operator provided us with good quality road bicycles and a GPS device pre-loaded with the tour route. They also gave us a set of lightweight tools, a pump and a spare tube. In case we had more trouble, full bike assistance was included - luckily we had no need for it. We only had a punctured tire during the whole trip.
The hotels on the route were all booked by the tour operator, including our luggage transfer from one hotel to the next one on the route.

The GPS device was very helpful ans saved us a lot of time - especially important on the long stages. Due to the many canals that criss-cross the landscape, getting from A to B might not be as simple as it seems... Just using a compass is not of much use for finding your way in Holland...

Cycling on flat-land was tougher than I thought! We live in the mountains, so most cycling routes are 50% up-hill and 50% downhill. Moreover, the mountains protect us from strong winds. Covering a similar distance on the plains felt harder, especially with head-wind. Sure enough, half of the tour we had to work hard against the wind! Even with tail-winds, you still have to pedal, unlike on mountains down-hills...

We both enjoyed the tour very much. The landscape of Holland is as different from home as it can be! It felt like being in a delta, which in fact is the case. What I find amazing is that all the landscape we were cycling through is man-made! Yet, along the route there were many wild areas, with forests, lakes, canals and lots of water birds, reminding me of the Danube Delta.

The second day we had the longest stage. 160km. It was the one we enjoyed the most. It included Afsluitdijk, the 32km dam between the North Sea an IJssel Lake. We had west and north-west winds during this day. The first 40km until we reached Afsluitdijk were quite hard as we battled the quite strong head winds and a few light showers. The 32km on the dam were OK; we were sheltered by the top of the dike so the side wind was not so strong. The cherry on the cake were the last 85 kilometers! We flew most of the distance with strong tail winds along the lake shore and across the plains! Without the tail winds it would have been very hard to reach our destination in time that day.

Here is the route of the second day:

And some photos we took along the four day tour:

Cycling along Afsluitdijk

By the North Sea

Rain on the last kilometers of the tour...

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